New Predator Control Initiative –
Kill a Marked Coyote, Get a Lifetime Hunting License
The state of South Carolina has a new predator control initiative aimed at coyotes across the state; kill a marked coyote and get a lifetime hunting license. The initiative, a proviso to the 2016-2017 budget, will officially start on July 1, the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year, and remain in effect for one year. While slated to have already taken effect, in reality, the program is a little further away from implementation. According to officials with whom The Advertiser spoke, there are still a lot of details to be worked out.
The program is in its early stages, but the idea is simple – decrease the coyote population. The preliminary ideas are also simple. DNR will capture coyotes, mark them, and then release them back into the wild for hunters to harvest. There will be a total of 16 coyotes captured and tagged, and of those 16, four will be released into each of the state’s 4 game zones. The prize for those hunters who harvest the marked animals, as previously stated, will be a lifetime hunting license. Working out the details, however, is not so simple. First, the capture of the animals has to occur. While this will involve trapping, it is still unclear as to whom this responsibility will fall. This trapping could quite possibly be contacted out by DNR. Another glitch that must be worked out is what to do with the different sexes captured. One possibility is to neuter the males and euthanize the females. Another is to spay and neuter both sexes for release. The objective, in either case, however, will be the same: release non-reproductive coyotes back into the wild. The other issue to be overcome before implementation of this program can begin is marking the animals to be released. Early in the process, tattoos were mentioned as a possibility. However, that route was described as “kinda expensive” by an official with DNR who spoke to The Advertiser. Because of that expense, other avenues are now being discussed. The two most popular being considered at this point are tagging the coyotes in the ear with a color-blended tag or implanting a micro-chip type device similar to those used in domestic pets. The goal with the marking, however, will be to make it unrecognizable to hunters so that they will not know whether or not they have harvested a marked coyote until its body is examined.
As DNR works to hash out these plans, perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle that will need to be decided is how hunters will present harvested animals for verification as being one of the coyotes released in this initiative control effort. While this part of the puzzle is seemingly one of the least developed in terms of implementation, a DNR official told The Advertiser that DNR would need to physically view the harvested animal for validation as well as to be able to gather valuable information on the animals released.
There is another glaring problem to be overcome with this initiative; out of state hunters. Specifically, since there are no lifetime licenses available for non-resident hunters, what will be the reward should one of these hunters harvest a marked coyote? To this, our DNR contact said, “We haven’t figured that out yet,” but assured, “ We will figure something out between now and then.” A few possibilities being considered are giving non-resident hunters who harvest these animals the monetary equivalent of the lifetime license or devising a way to issue a lifetime license to non-resident hunters for this particular situation. “We’ve got to get creative here,” the DNR official said.
That same DNR official explained to The Advertiser that it is the goal of the agency to carry out this program in the most cost effective manner. To that end, DNR is taking the time to research the best routes to take in terms of implementing this program with the goal being “to get it going as soon as possible”. The agency specifically hopes to have the program in place by this coming deer season.
Coyotes have no natural predators. To that end, the goal of the predator initiative is to give hunters across the state a reason to want to pursue them. “We’ve got to try something,” Rep. Bill Hixon, Chairman of the Wildlife Sub-Committee, told The Advertiser in an interview. He went on to say that he is excited South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources is willing to try new things. Saying SCDNR has “a sense of direction”, Rep. Hixon said that SCDNR is looking for programs that work.
The agency is hopeful that by having the program in place by this coming deer season, deer hunters will be more likely to harvest these animals with such a big prize available. However, is must be noted that while this program will probably not be implemented until deer season, coyotes may be hunted year round as there are no restrictions on hunting them.
As this predator control program is still in its early stages, The Advertiser will continue to follow its development and report details of its implementation as they become available.